Some of you already know this, but for those who don't and were wondering where the hell I've been for the past month and why I've been ignoring your e-mails and phone calls and text messages, it boils down to this--I came down with a bad case of pneumonia.
You may recall that Friday, February 8, I went on a fake date with my friend Sarah to the Sex Workers' Art Show, which was cool and wonderful and all kinds of fun and, yes, at some point I'll do a write-up, but all that is beside the point. When I woke up Saturday morning I noticed that I felt a mite... coldified. Not horrible, a tad congested, a bit of a cough beyond my usual smoker's hack, maybe a little feverish in that almost-but-not-quite-early-flu way, certainly nothing that massive quantities of orange juice and aspirin couldn't handle. Sunday came and there was more of the same. Monday... well, Monday I went to work and as the day progressed I realized that the presumed rhinoviruses had decided to have their way with me--I was feeling definitely sick.
Then came Tuesday and the fecal material hit the bladed cooling device:
Fever. Chills. Wheezing. Coughing. Headache. Muscle pain. Joint pain. Shortness of breath. Non-cardiac chest pain. More coughing. More fever. Misery.
And I'm thinking, "Please, dear Jeebus, please don't let this be the flu even though I know it probably is," because I work at a hospital and all we've heard for the past few months is how we should get a flu shot, we need to get a flu shot, we'd better get a flu shot, we're going to have to sign papers if we don't get a flu shot, if we come down with the flu and haven't gotten a flu shot there'll be no sympathy for us and we will be the objects of scorn and derision... and guess who had yet to get one.
I needn't have worried.
By Wednesday morning I was sick enough that I figured I was going to have to get better in order to see a doctor--sitting up was problematic, walking was a hit-or-miss proposition, and driving myself to the doctor was out of the question. Hell, getting dressed was out of the question because now I was having genuine difficulty breathing; in fact, what I was doing was less like breathing and more like gasping.
Wednesday and Thursday were one long, continuous fever dream, which would have been amusing, even entertaining, in other circumstances; unfortunately, I was in no state to appreciate it since all the previously mentioned symptoms had intensified.
At some point during the Thursday/Friday transition I coughed so hard I tore something around my lower left rib. This made further coughing a very, very painful experience and the one time I sneezed was as close to true agony as I ever wish to experience.
This was not flu.
Friday morning I put in a (literally) breathless call to my doctor to no avail--he was booked solid until Monday and the receptionist suggested I go to the emergency room if I couldn't wait until then. What she didn't address was how the hell I was going to get to the emergency room, but I let that slide. Instead, after a quick check to make sure my insurance would cover a visit to someone not my primary care provider, I dragged myself over to the local Doc-In-A-Box, Patient First, since they have a facility right around the corner from where I live. We're talking maybe half a block away.
It took me half an hour to walk there.
Patient First is strictly a walk-in place--no appointments, first-come, first-served, though when I signed in I got the distinct feeling they started hustling things a bit to get me out of the waiting room and into an exam room ASAP. Nurse walks in, takes my temperature (high), resting pulse (didn't catch that one but I'm guessing rapid, say, 80+), and blood pressure (a tad high but not frightening), walks out. Doctor comes in, expresses sympathy, listens to my chest gurgle, swabs a nasal passage for a quickie flu test, draws blood, walks out, hustles back in with a nebulizer, then proceeds to administer what I assume was Albuterol for half an hour in an effort to relieve my breathing difficulties. Then a couple of chest x-rays just for fun. The flu test comes back negative (yay!), but the x-rays are strongly indicative of bacterial pneumonia and me being one sick puppy.
About an hour later I walked out s-l-o-w-l-y with an Albuterol inhaler, a 10-day supply of a seriously broad-spectrum antibiotic (Levaquin), and a bottle of cherry-flavored Tylenol III generic, which is an amusing blend of acetaminophen and codeine intended to reduce my fever to reasonable levels while diminishing, but not suppressing, my cough reflex (it also tastes like ass).
For the next week I was still sick, as in stay-at-home sick, but at least I could breathe and the various aforementioned symptoms slowly (too slowly) receded to tolerable levels. I won't disgust you with the horrendous crap I proceeded to cough up over the next few days (use your imagination if you must); let's just say I felt like John Hurt's character's last scene in Alien.
And now I'm on the mend, though I have no energy and tire easily, a state of affairs they tell me may last a few months, o joy, o bliss.
The good thing about this after missing two weeks of work and dragging for a couple of weeks after that is...
It wasn't flu.
P. S. Daytime television EFFIN' SUCKS!